Avalanche face hard decisions with Landeskog, Nichushkin in offseason after 2nd round loss to Dallas

Updated May. 20, 2024 1:36 p.m. ET

DENVER (AP) — The biggest factor in the direction of the Colorado Avalanche's offseason plans may just hinge on trust.

Trust in whether captain Gabriel Landeskog can make a comeback after missing two full seasons with a knee injury. Trust also in whether Valeri Nichushkin can be counted on after leaving in the middle of a second straight postseason for off-the-ice issues.

President Joe Sakic and general manager Chris MacFarland face some hard decisions after the Avalanche saw their season come to a halt with a double-overtime home loss to the Dallas Stars in Game 6 of the second round. Landeskog and Nichushkin are at the top of the list.

“You hate having that uncertainty because it makes it harder to plan,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “For management, for Chris and Joe, like, how do you plan? They’ll get clear on those guys’ situations as best they can and then form a plan and go from there. You’re hoping for answers and clarity so then you can build your team around that.”


Landeskog hasn’t played since helping the Avalanche to the 2022 Stanley Cup title. The 31-year-old was around the team, at times skating with them, but wasn't all that close to a return in the playoffs. He's more than a year removed from cartilage replacement surgery on his right knee. Landeskog has five seasons left on a $56 million, eight-year contract signed in 2021.

“I’m really hoping, not just for us but for Gabe that he’s able to play again,” Bednar said. “He wants to play. It’s been a long road for him. ... If anyone can do it, Gabe can do it.”

In the case of Nichushkin, he received at least a six-month suspension without pay before Game 4 for violating terms of the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program. He's sidelined until sometime next season.

Nichushkin, the team’s top goal scorer during the playoff run, may be hard to move (he signed an eight-year, $49 million contract in 2022) But there may also be hard feelings to smooth over should the talented 29-year-old Russian forward return.

In a first-round playoff series a year ago against Seattle, Nichushkin abruptly left the team for what was explained as personal reasons. He missed the final five games of the postseason as the Avalanche lost the series 4-3.

“It’s unfortunate that Val’s not here,” Avalanche forward Miles Wood said before the Game 6 loss. “At the end of the day, it’s just about the guys in the room and trying to win a hockey game.”

The Avalanche went all in, too, making numerous moves at the trade deadline to bolster their roster. They acquired second-line center Casey Mittelstadt from Buffalo, Brandon Duhaime from Minnesota, Yakov Trenin from Nashville and Sean Walker from Philadelphia. The high-scoring Avalanche cruised through Winnipeg in the first round, but ran into a road block with the stingy defense of Dallas.

“When you fall short, that’s when it stings a little bit more,” defenseman Devon Toews said. “As proud as I am of these guys in here and how hard we fought, we definitely came (up) short.”


It was a career year for Nathan MacKinnon, who finished the regular season with 140 points (51 goals, 89 assists). It's the most points in a single season in franchise history, breaking Peter Stastny's mark of 139 in 1981-82.

MacKinnon is a Hart Trophy finalist for MVP, while defenseman Cale Makar was named a Norris Trophy finalist for a fourth straight season.


Mittelstadt is set to become a restricted free agent this summer. Colorado's unrestricted free agents include forwards Andrew Cogliano, Duhaime, Joel Kiviranta, Trenin and Jonathan Drouin, who set career-highs in points (56) and assists (37) this season.

On the defensive side, veteran Jack Johnson, Caleb Jones and Walker are set to become free agents.


Forward Zach Parise is retiring after 19 seasons spanning four different teams. Since being drafted with the 17th overall pick by the New Jersey Devils in 2003, he played in 1,254 career regular-season games and scored 434 goals. He made it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011-12, when he was the captain of the Devils. They lost in six games to the Los Angeles Kings.

“It was a great group of people to be a part of," Parise said of the Avalanche.


Colorado finished an NHL-best 31-9-1 at home in the regular season, but lost all three games at Ball Arena to the Stars in the series. ... Bednar has 49 playoff wins, tying Bob Hartley for the most by a head coach in franchise history.


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